There may have been bigger names in the New York Yankees’ lineups of the late 1990s dynasty, but those four World Series rings in five years wouldn’t have happened without Bernie Williams, the Bombers’ switch-hitting, smooth fielding centerfielder.
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Williams began his Yankees career in 1991 at 22 years old and became a regular two years later as he led the charge of young players finally being given a chance to prove themselves in the Majors with an organization hardly known for its patience in developing young talent. He established himself as one of the team’s top players with a combination of power hitting and excellent defense.
Williams’ breakout season came in 1995, when he hit .307 with 18 home runs and 82 RBI and helped lead the team to the AL playoffs for the first time since 1981. The next year, surrounded by veteran stars and other homegrown young stars like Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, he helped lead the team to a World Series win against the Braves batting mostly from the cleanup spot.
Williams continued to hit well for the Yankees, recording over 90 RBI in each season from 1996 to 2002. He was the AL batting champion in 1999, leading the league with a .339 average.
In addition to his offensive prowess, Williams was also known for his excellent defense. He won four Gold Glove Awards.
Williams’ career highlights include four World Series titles with the Yankees (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000) and five All-Star selections. He retired from baseball in 2006 with 287 home runs, 1,257 RBI and a .297 average. Williams was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Yankees retired his number 51 in 2015.
1991: Makes MLB debut with the New York Yankees.
1995: Breakout year with a .307 average as the Yanks’ regular centerfielder. 1996-2002: Records over 90 RBI in each season, including five with 100 or more.
1999: Hits .339 to win the AL batting title.
1996, 1998, 1999, 2000: Wins World Series titles with the Yankees.
2006: Retires from baseball at the end of the season.